The Charlottesville 29

If there were just 29 restaurants in Charlottesville, what would be the ideal 29?

Gordonsville Ice House

221 N Main Street . Gordonsville, VA . (540) 406-5393

As excellent as the barbeque is at The BBQ Exchange, there’s another food that enticed pilgrimages to Craig Hartman’s Gordonsville barbeque mecca for years. Every February, at the restaurant’s Porkapalooza celebration, Hartman would make lard-fried chicken that many would wait all year long for.

As of 2021, they no longer have to wait. At Gordonsville Ice House, Hartman serves his famous fried chicken every day. Gordonsville is called the fried chicken capital of the world, with festivals that date back decades. In homage to those roots, Hartman brings the attention to detail of an acclaimed fine dining chef to one of the nation’s most popular foods. Many consider it the best version ever.

Primarily places to store and sell ice for a community, ice houses have a long, but faded, tradition as central gathering places, with some even evolving into open-air saloons. Renewing that history in the heart of Main Street, Gordonsville Ice House welcomes families and others with spacious, indoor and outdoor seating, cornhole to keep the kids busy, and plenty of televisions with the games on. There’s local beer and wine to wash the food down with, and cheerful servers who seem happy you chose to spend some time at the ice house.

What to Order

Fried chicken is an obvious choice. But, don’t sleep on fried creatures of the sea. Hartman long dreamed of opening a Southern fish fry, and has instead smuggled a carefully sourced seafood program into his fried chicken joint. Below are our suggestions.

Our Picks

  • Fried Pickles
  • Popcorn Chicken
  • Fried Chicken – 2 Piece Dark
  • Filet of Flounder
  • Fried Seafood
  • Mac N Cheese



701 Club Drive . Keswick, VA . (434) 284-4200

Even before Marigold, Keswick Hall was transporting. Cross the border from Charlottesville to the Keswick resort, and it’s as though you are on the other side of the world. The vistas. The setting. The infinity pool.

But, when one of the world’s most famous chefs opened a restaurant there in 2021, the transporting effect reached another level. Marigold is stunning. There is nothing like it in Charlottesville, and few places like it in the world. A chef so well renowned he goes by his first name, Jean-Georges has restaurants in New York, Miami Beach, London, Paris, Tokyo, and glitzy beach resorts. And now, Keswick, Virginia. Once inside Marigold, though, it may feel more like one of those other destinations than a tiny rural town where the sole post office closes for lunch each day.

For the food, Jean-Georges opts for faithful renditions of crowd-pleasing dishes he has developed over the years for his many restaurants. His timeless east-meets-west signature, Warm Shrimp and Tender Green Salad, for example, was one of the first dishes Jean-Georges created after arriving in the United States, and is still popular at his restaurants decades later. Also always on the menu is his famous molten chocolate cake.

Sustaining quality is not easy when building an empire of restaurants around the world. With more than forty locations, “Jean Georges” is now a full-blown corporation, with executives, design teams, and rigorous training programs, all working to ensure that each restaurant meets his standards. At Marigold, from the moment you enter until the warm madeleines nestled in cloth napkins that close the meal, the polish of the experience bears the chef’s unmistakable stamp.

What to Order

The breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus change seasonally, so don’t get too wedded to a dish. Some are constants, though, like pizzas and the “Simply Prepared” section, which offers just that, simply prepared meats, chicken, and fish, with a side of shishito peppers, and a choice of sauce. One tip: ask for butter. While the complimentary bread and olive oil are excellent, the butter available on request is imported from France, delicious, and served beautifully at room temperature. Below are our suggestions.

Our Picks

  • Dealer’s Choice Cocktail
  • Octopus
  • Warm Shrimp and Tender Green Salad
  • Wild Mushroom Pizza
  • Warm Chocolate Cake


Introducing Exchange Cafe: A Top Chef and His Favorite Foods

You can debate which Charlottesville chef is the most talented. You can debate whose food is best. But, there is little doubt which chef has made the biggest impact on our area’s food over the past three decades. Craig Hartman.

For one thing, there are his restaurants. Since coming to Charlottesville in 1991, Hartman has built several institutions. First there was the restaurant at Clifton Inn, which he launched in 1992. Next was Fossett’s Restaurant, which set the bar for fine dining for years. Then, The BBQ Exchange, offering barbecue the Food Network says is among the nation’s best. And, most recently, there was Gordonsville Icehouse, a fried chicken restaurant in the fried chicken capital of the world where many say you can get the best version ever.

But, it’s not just Hartman’s own places that make his impact so profound. It’s his proteges’ too. Many restaurants of The Charlottesville 29 have chefs who worked under Hartman or at restaurants he founded, such as Broadcloth, C&O, MAS, Oakhart Social, and Sultan Kebab. Outside the 29, his impact extends even further.

Exchange Café

Given his lofty accomplishments, Hartman’s latest project may seem his most modest yet. It’s not fine dining. And, it’s not a stab at argument-starting icons like barbecue or fried chicken. Instead, Hartman says, Exchange Café is simply a roadside café for food and drink he and his wife like.

Craig achieved all of his success with his high school sweetheart and wife of 46 years, Donna. They have tackled fine dining, a beach resort, culinary education, luxury inns, cooking for celebrities, podcasting, historic sites, barbecue, fried chicken and more. And now, for what may be their final act, they are returning to something simpler and more personal. Food they like to eat every day.

While Hartman says some may find the menu disjointed – spanning various cultures and styles, if you spend a few minutes with him, a common theme emerges. This is the food of the Hartmans’ life.

Take pinchos. Raised by parents who adopted him, Hartman spent years wondering about his heritage and looking for his birth parents. His long search eventually led him to find that he has Puerto Rican roots. He has since embraced his birth family as his own, visiting Puerto Rico often. Spanish for “spikes,” pinchos are one of Hartman’s favorite foods in Puerto Rico — skewered grilled meats often enjoyed as snacks. Exchange Café offers them as either an appetizer or entrée – beef, chicken, fish, shrimp, or vegetables. The key, Hartman says, is that they are cooked with the tool at the heart of the cafe’s kitchen, a hickory coal grill.

Another item getting the hickory grill treatment is a food that Craig and Donna first enjoyed at firehouse cookouts as children in Lebanon, Pennsylvania: a popular version of barbecued chicken in a marinade heavy on vinegar. Decades later, as Executive Chef of Cornell University’s renowned School of Hotel Administration, Hartman learned that the chicken he loved had actually been invented by a Cornell professor, and then spread throughout New York state and Pennsylvania. Some call it Cornell Chicken. At Exchange Café, it bears the dish’s other name in tribute to Hartman’s childhood memories: Fireman’s Chicken.

The Hartmans also love the food of Italy, which they visit often to see their son. The sandwich menu includes the “Cured”: rosemary ham, salami, mortadella, provolone, greens, tomato, onion, oil + vinegar. Or, do it the Hartmans’ way and just order the salumi platter, one of their favorite ways to eat.

Much of the rest of the menu’s offerings are just the simple and healthy foods the Hartmans like to enjoy every day, like grilled meats and fish, with greens and grilled vegetables.

If you’re intro carbs, though, breads are especially good, thanks to pastry chef Sarah Diegl, who worked with Hartman at Clifton Inn before running Real Food in Orange. Diegl particularly shines at breakfast, where offerings include pastries, breakfast tacos on handmade corn tortillas, and breakfast sandwiches on her buttermilk biscuits.

Even the drinks have the Hartmans’ stamp. Caffe corretto, espresso spiked with with just a touch of liquor, is one they fell for in Italy, where they’d see locals sip it all day long. Exchange Cafe’s version combines Shenandoah Joe espresso with sambuca or grappa. There’s also a list of some of the Hartmans’ favorite wines and cocktails, like a Negroni, Old Fashioned, and Sangria.

Perhaps the best news for diners is that all of the food and drink reflects what has become Hartmans’ signature: attention to detail. Regulars of The BBQ Exchange and Gordonsville Ice House know that no detail is too small for the attention of a chef who spent decades in fine dining. At those restaurants, everything bears his stamp: pumpkin muffins, coleslaw, pickles, fried fish, and more. With Hartman at the helm, the same should be true at Exchange Cafe.

The Barboursville roadside space, on Route 33, offers indoor and outdoor seating, plus takeout. It is open Tuesday through Sunday, serving breakfast from 7-10am and lunch/dinner from 11am-7pm. Follow along on Instagram and Facebook.

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